Monday, 03 October 2016 09:30

Phillips brings humor, passion to community theater as a playwright

Written by  Kayla Tucker
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Phillips brings humor, passion to community theater as a playwright Photo by Kayla Tucker

To playwright Scott Phillips, life is meant to be funny, even when it doesn’t seem like it. 

The Cedar Springs resident spends his free time volunteering with the Cedar Springs Community Players as a writer, director and occasional actor. All of his productions invoke the everyday humor in life’s crazy moments, like the extended stay of a mother-in-law, the doldrums of retirement and the misplaced emphasis of weddings.

“I’m a very sarcastic person,” Phillips said. “I love to laugh, and I think I bug people sometimes because I make fun of everything.”

The draw to the stage started in 2006 when a friend called him up and asked him if he wanted to be in a play.

“I said, ‘OK, sounds all right.’ And I’ve never forgiven him,” Phillips said with a laugh. “He got me hooked. … To bring enjoyment to somebody, it’s probably one of the biggest thrills of my life.”

Since then, Phillips, 57, has produced, written and directed nine plays and five musicals with the Cedar Springs Community Players, a nonprofit group that performs at the Kent Theatre in downtown Cedar Springs. 

Phillips has managed to get the whole family involved right alongside him. His sister, musician Jill Phillips — or “Jill Detroit” — writes all the original music for her brother’s musicals.

“He’s just got this curiosity about him,” Jill Phillips said of her brother. “He puts things together in a really unique way. … It’s just been great to watch.”

Phillips’ wife, Danielle, and two sons, Zachary and Wyatt, have also jumped on stage from time to time. 

During a recent play, she stepped up to fill in for an actor who had to drop out of the production. 

“She is a natural actress — that I didn’t know,” Phillips said. “She came up there and she had to play ‘the stoner.’ It’s a fun role, but it’s not an easy role to play.” 

With both of his sons, Phillips was able to bond with them at a time most teenagers drift away from their parents.

“If you can find a passion together, it’s a wonderful thing,” he said. 

Eldest son, Zachary, 25, now lives in Portland, Ore. and works for Dope Magazine

Four years ago, his youngest son, Wyatt, 16, died in a tragic car accident. 

“He was a natural actor,” Phillips said of Wyatt’s on-stage abilities. “Parents will say that, but I’m saying that not as a parent, but as a director. Just the enjoyment he brought kind of drew me into theater.”

As a director, Phillips enjoys watching volunteer actors become passionate about what they’re doing on stage. In his own productions, he encourages the actors to develop the characters he created in his pieces, and at the same time, develop themselves as actors. 

“I love getting people involved in things that they develop a passion for,” Phillips said. “I know what I like isn’t what everybody else likes, but I like to invite people in and say, ‘Hey, try this out.’”

When he’s not at practice or writing, Phillips works in I.T. support for General Electric. He enjoys golfing, gardening, music and traveling. 

In all aspects of his life, it really all boils down to integrity and honesty for Phillips. 

“It’s important to me that you’re honest with yourself and with other people,” he said. “And sometimes, that’s not the easiest thing to do.”

And above all, he likes to find the laughs in the day-to-day grind. 

“When we don’t laugh at ourselves, we miss an opportunity to enjoy life,” Phillips said. 

As for the role and importance of community theater in that process, he considers it a place where people can address their fears. 

Most recently, Phillips was elected president of the Cedar Springs Community Players. The group performs three shows a year at Kent Theatre at 8 N. Main St. in downtown Cedar Springs. Currently, about 25 actors have joined as members of the community theater group, but people can act in the performances without a membership. 

As president, Phillips hopes to increase participation and even has ideas for “improv nights” just to get more people interested in local theater. 

“It’s wonderful to be a part of a group,” Phillips said. “It becomes a passion and an enjoyment of life.”

Phillips’ tenth production, a musical about people with phobias and fears, is set to hit the stage in May 2017.

 

Timeline of Scott Phillips’ original productions:

• 2007 – Fish & Visitors: A mother-in-law comes to visit and then announces she is staying indefinitely. Her son-in-law, with the help of the neighbor, put together a scheme to shorten her stay.

• 2008 – None Would Be Old: A man finally retires and no longer has to go to work every day. He is thrilled. His wife? Not so much, as she now has to endure his constant companionship.

• 2009 – Paris on the Brain (musical): A young man returns from Paris and is soon followed by a woman who wants to be his bride. The problem is she is Muslim, which upsets the groom’s father, who is a minister.

• 2010 – Hamlet & Eggs: A small town theater group tries to perform Shakespeare. After a failed attempt, they decide to perform it in a redneck style.

• 2011 – Devil May Care (musical): A politician, missionary and others die in a shipwreck. The devil, tired of politicians in hell, puts a virus in heaven’s computers to send the politician to heaven and the missionary to hell. Chaos ensues.

• 2012 – Thanks for All You Do: When a big company moves to acquire a smaller company, the employees revolt.

• 2013 – Old Folks at Home (musical): A new resident reluctantly enters a nursing home. He encounters the bizarre personalities of the other residents (and staff) and soon fits right in.

• 2014 – Fish & Visitors (redone)

• 2015 – Wedded Abyss (musical): A look at how much attention we give to wedding preparation and how little attention we give to marriage preparation.

• 2016 – A House Divided: An older mother wants her adult children to be one big happy family. The problem is they can’t stand one another. With the help of her grandchildren, she develops a plan to make her children get along.

 

Cedar Springs Community Players

Upcoming show: The Foreigner by Larry Shue
Dates: Oct. 13-15, at the Kent Theatre
cedarspringscommunityplayers.org or search Cedar Springs Community Players on Facebook

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